The one thing I love most about horror is how it's always evolving, with sub-genres taking centre stage for a decade or two. You know what I'm talking about. Sub-genres like monster movies, creature features, found-footage.
Recently, I've been thinking a lot about my personal favourite sub-genre: The Slasher Movie and whether or not there's any room for it any more in modern day horror.
With the sub-setting of horror movies of late being either 'found-footage' or what can only be described as 'torture-porn' it seems that movies that focus on a psychopathic lunatic with a grudge against humanity have subsided.
Now, as I've already stated, I'm a slasher girl. I love watching teens get butchered against a killer that seems to be superhuman. A killer like Ghostface, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers will always have a place in my heart. In fact, 9 times out of 10 I will select a slasher film when the boredom stakes get high.
Whether we like them or not, slashers have played a huge part in the horror genre. Halloween, often branded the granddaddy of the slasher craze, has staked its spot in cinematic history and, after 30+ years, is still raking in new fans. (Fun Fact: Scream 4 quoted Peeping Tom, 1960, as starting the slasher craze)
So, with the influx of 'torture-porn' and 'found-footage' films, is this the end of the slasher movie craze?
As long as there has been horror, there has been madmen brandishing weapons, hell bent on slicing and dicing victims. From movies like Psycho, Peeping Tom and Halloween to more modern creations like Scream and Hatchet, the slasher movie has made an impact on the way we view horror.
With movies today leaning more towards blood, guts and gore, the slasher almost seems to be buried by it's bloodier rivals (no pun intended). However it would also seem that the slasher is the most common style of horror film, with zombies coming a close second.
Why? Because everyone has seen a slasher. Even if you hate horror films, I guarantee that you have indeed sat through a slasher film. We all know the formula for a slasher and most young directors who want to work in the horror genre begin with a slasher because it's the most recognised sub-genre in horror.
In 2006, Hatchet hit cinemas. A throwback to the slasher craze of the late '70's and '80's, Hatchet produced a killer that could rival the likes of Myers, Krueger and Voorhees. While rivalling the big bads of the horror genre, Hatchet also gave in to modern audience demands and gave us gut wrenching moments and blood, blood, blood.
Combining blood, guts and gore with the typical slasher qualities was a win for Hatchet, and the film prevailed, causing a stir that the slasher was back.
In typical slasher tradition, Hatchet II had to up the ante, being gorier. I guess we have the rules of Scream and its sequels to thank for that.
Speaking of Scream, let's take a look at one of the most popular slasher films of all time. A group of articulate teenagers sitting around and deconstruct horror movies while a real life killer strikes, taking them out one by one. Scream followed the slasher craze to a tee, taking advantage of movies that had come before it. (Fun Fact: As Dewey enters the house, gun drawn, the music playing is actually from the movie Halloween which is playing on TV)
Taking advantage of everything that had come before it, Scream dominated the '90's. In 2011, Scream 4 hit cinemas. A new decade, new rules, and surprisingly was a hit. The slasher was back. One thing I loved most about Scream 4 (aside from Sidney taking a dig at remakes by telling Jill “You forgot the first rule of remakes, Jill. Don't fuck with the original.”) was how during the opening sequence Trudie (Shenae Grimes) states how Saw IV wasn't scary, but gross and bloody.
Scream 4 really hit the nail on the head when Trudie stated that while Jigsaw killed people creatively, no one really cared because there was no character development and it was just body parts flying at the screen. A statement that I fully agree with.
An abundance of blood doesn't equal scary. It's stomach churning, vomit inducing and shows no imagination.
It seems with modern horror we're getting one element or the other. Character development with suspense and no blood or a minimal approach to blood, or at the other end of the spectrum, tons of blood, body parts flying at the screen and no real storyline or character development. As far as slashers go, they seem to perfect the blending of the two elements to create a story that people want to see and will continue to talk about for decades.
So, why are slashers popular and are they on the out?
Slashers are popular because they deliver on the ultimate fear: Man. It's not a demon or zombies or a supernatural element stalking a group of people. It's a man. And in some lesser known movies, a woman.
A man who could be anyone, like your next door neighbour, or the man at the checkout counter at the local grocery store or even the local police officer who always tips his hat in a greeting. What mankind can do to each other is truly terrifying.
In slashers, we can relate to the fear the characters feel as that creepy gas station attendant leers. We can relate to the uncomfortable silence of an old house. We can relate to the heart palpitations that comes from answering the phone to hear nothing but breathing on the other end.
Is this the end? No. Truth be told, the slasher sub-genre is a lot like Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees. It's immortal and will never die. There will be a few years in between slasher films, and that they'll lie dormant for a decade or so, but ultimately, they will never cease to exist.
As long as there is a demand for well constructed movies that feature a group of people that are relatable to today's audiences, there will be slashers. As long as there is well thought out stalking sequences that generally deliver fear, there will be slashers. As long as there is a demand for a madman brandishing a big old hunting knife, there will be slashers.
The Slasher. Not just a craze, nor just a sub-genre. The slasher is iconic and will continue to haunt our darkest dreams for all eternity.